Red onions got their name when they're purple

Red onions got their name when they're purple


It's all down the the evolution of language.

NEW YORK (Web Desk) - They're a staple ingredient to so many meals - but we don't often stop to question how they got their name. Red onions can spice up salads, salsas and sandwiches when used raw, or can be thrown into a simmering pan alongside baked fish or mincemeat, to name just a few options.

But social media users have recently been questioning how the much-loved vegetable got its name - especially considering its purple in colour, not red. One Reddit user asked: "Why is it called a red onion when it's clearly purple? I picked up some red onions at the store and it finally clicked - they're just not red."

According to anthropologist Brent Berlin and linguist Paul Kay, it's all down the the evolution of language.

In the late 1960s, Berlin and Kay studied how terminology develops after realising strong similarities between the terms used across 80 different languages.

They claim most of the terms went through seven separate evolutionary stages, with the first referring to colours through shades of black and white.

From here, it is thought red became a "primary descriptive colour", being used to describe anything that wasn't black or white.

It was only when humans started to create more and more words to describe the world around them when our ancestors started to come up with words to describe reds, purples, oranges and yellows.

A statement on All Recipes reads: " Red, because of its ubiquity as a category, has been used throughout human history to describe colours that, today, we wouldn't truly consider to be red, and you can see that in other somewhat inaccurate colour euphemisms that we use today.

"Natural red hair, for example, is generally more orange in hue, and red wine certainly has a red hue to it but is almost always more purple than scarlet or crimson. Really, 'red' is a catch-all term for a loose group of hues, including yellow, orange, pink and purple."

But this isn't the only possible reason as others claim they got their name is because their purplish skins have historically been used to make reddish dyes.

"Research has found that while the dyeing method used for pulling colour from onion skins is not necessarily the most ecologically sound (the process uses metal mordants), the resulting dye can leave deep and varied hues in cotton, silk, and a number of other fabrics," the statement adds.

"You can see the same dye effect to some extent in other red vegetables; red cabbage can be used as a natural food dye."

Commenting on this revelation, one user said: "That makes sense because red grapes are definitely purple too."